Thunderbolt solidifies support at NAB 2014

Imagine a wide-field camera -- 15,360 pixels wide by 2,160 high -- that produces seven terabytes of data per hour. That's over 1.9GB/sec. How do you store that?
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

I saw such a camera at National Association of Broadcasters meet — the premier convention for content creators — from a company called Qamira (and they weren't alone) that stitches together input from multiple cameras to create a realtime virtual camera. The benefit: Set up the camera once to cover the entire visual field, and instead of moving a physical camera, you move a virtual camera within the field of view.

No cameraman, no missed shots, and the director has full remote control. But a lot of data.

Shooting in 4k — four times the data of today's 1080p HD — also generates a lot of data. And it looks like Thunderbolt 2 is becoming the preferred I/O bus for field use. The wide support for Thunderbolt 2, including on Windows, made it clear that Thunderbolt is here to stay.

Storage is a driver

One storage vendor specializing in media and entertainment told me that they may drop next-gen SAS for their small arrays in favor of Thunderbolt, because of the performance, reliability, and convenience. Now that Windows support is growing — all Macs have had Thunderbolt for a couple of years — and Thunderbolt licensing costs are much lower, it just makes sense.

In addition, the availability of several Thunderbolt docks — I've started to test a couple — and audio/video capture devices from Blackmagic Design and AJA among others, means the creative workflow can be handled across Thunderbolt. On a notebook.

Intel counted over 250 Thunderbolt devices for sale. With motherboards, notebooks, and workstations from HP, Lenovo, ASUS, Dell, Gigabyte, Origin, and others.

The Storage Bits take

Thunderbolt isn't going to dislodge USB 3.0. Nor does it need to. For single drives and lower-speed devices, USB 3.0 is cheap and fast.

But for pro creatives, Thunderbolt 2 has earned a solid niche. For field video capture, ingest, storage, and output, nothing else is as convenient.

Seeing more than twice as many Thunderbolt products this year than last proves that vendors are seeing the value and the sales to justify continued investment. That's good news for content creators.

Comments welcome, of course. Don't forget, Intel designed Thunderbolt to go up to 100Gb/sec. It should last a few more years!

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